Dermody, Thomas (DNB00)

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DERMODY, THOMAS (1775–1802), poet, was born at Ennis, co. Clare, Ireland, in January 1775. His father kept at the time a school in Ennis, where the son was educated. He is said to have been employed as classical assistant in the school when only nine years old, and showed precocious talents, especially for poetry. His father, a man of ability and learning, unfortunately took to drink. Dermody became vain and unsettled, and, resolving to seek his own fortunes, ran away to Dublin. He arrived there without a penny, and gladly accepted employment from the keeper of a bookstall. He soon managed, however, to make himself known to several persons of good position in society. He was specially noticed by the Rev. Gilbert Austin (then the principal of a school near Dublin), who made a selection of Dermody's poems for the press, and published the book at his own expense. With the help of a subscription Dermody was placed beyond immediate distress. Unfortunately he abandoned himself to vice, saying, ‘I am vicious because I like it.’ In spite of benevolent attempts to raise him, he sank into degradation. A generous proposal to defray the expenses of a college education proved of no avail. He enlisted in the 108th regiment of the line, and under military discipline behaved well for a time; he was raised to the rank of sergeant, and having obtained a commission as second lieutenant in the wagon corps, he served abroad with distinction, was wounded, and, returning with his regiment to England, was placed on half-pay. But it was only to relapse into his former habits. Worn out in body with disease and privations, and weakened in intellect, he died in a wretched hovel near Sydenham, Kent, 15 July 1802, and was buried in Lewisham churchyard, where there is a monument to his memory.

A small collection of his poems was published, as already mentioned, in 1792. In the following year he produced a pamphlet on the French revolution, entitled ‘The Rights of Justice, or Rational Liberty,’ to which was annexed a poem entitled ‘The Reform.’ ‘Poems Moral and Descriptive,’ London, 1800, and ‘Poems on various Subjects,’ 1802, appeared during his lifetime. In 1807, five years after his death, ‘The Harp of Erin, or the Poetical Works of the late Thomas Dermody,’ 2 vols. 8vo, comprising a complete collection of his poems, was published, under the editorship of James Grant Raymond. To the same author is due the publication of a memoir.

[Raymond's Life of Thomas Dermody, interspersed with pieces of original Poetry, London, 1806, 2 vols. 8vo.]

B. H. B.